Schooling in New Zealand
Compulsory education in New Zealand is divided into primary, intermediate and secondary schooling. Primary schools are the first level. They cater for children from the age of five years, from entry to school, to the end of year 6 (usually age 10). Children in years 7 and 8 (age 11 - 12) may either be in a separate intermediate school or part of a primary, secondary or composite/area school. Secondary schools usually provide for students from year 9 (age 13) until the end of year 13 (age 17). Adult students who return to school enter in whichever year the majority of their subjects are in. Area/composite schools, which are usually based in rural areas, combine primary, intermediate and secondary schooling at one location.
A child starting primary school for the first time between July (when the school roll is counted) and 31 December of a school year, and aged between five and six, will be classed as year 0. Children who begin school for the first time between 1 January and before the July roll count will be classed as year 1. Children most commonly start school when they turn five even though schooling is compulsory from age six. Where children start school for the first time after the age of six, they are placed in the same year as other children of the same age.
Deciding on a school
Most children attend the school closest to where they live. Parents and caregivers can apply to enrol their children at any state school of their choice. However, if a school has too many children wishing to enrol, the Ministry of Education may require a school to operate an enrolment scheme to prevent over-crowding. An enrolment scheme must contain a home zone with clearly defined boundaries. Students who live within the home zone have an absolute right to enrol at the school. Students living outside the zone can still apply to enrol, but if there are more applicants than places, a ballot will be held to determine who can enrol. Brothers and sisters of current and former students and children of board employees have a higher priority for the out-of-zone places.
Parents or caregivers can telephone the schools they are interested in and ask to visit. They can see the latest Education Review Office report, which is available to the public, or get a copy from the local Education Review Office or the Education Review Office's website.
Many schools have a prospectus or brochure that sets out their ideals and what the school offers its students. Schools also have a school charter and you can ask to see a copy.
Children can be enrolled in a New Zealand school from their fifth birthday. All children in New Zealand must attend school from their sixth birthday.
Once parents and caregivers have decided on a school they are encouraged to visit to fill in an enrolment form before the child's first day. They are given information about school operating hours and how the school operates. Often this visit provides parents and caregivers with the opportunity to meet with the principal.
Once children are enrolled, they and their parents and caregivers become part of the school community and have many opportunities to be involved in school activities. If a child needs to change schools it is important to let the present school know as soon as possible. Once the child is enrolled at a new school all their personal records may be sent from the previous school. Children changing to a new level of schooling, such as intermediate or secondary, will have information sent home with them telling parents and caregivers what they need to do.
Where there is a choice of schools, information will be provided about each option. Sometimes an information evening is arranged by the present school to explain these options more fully. Most intermediate and secondary schools hold open days so students and their parents and caregivers can see what they have to offer.
Enrolments and enrolment schemes
Information for parents
Here are answers to questions which parents sometimes ask when they need to enrol their child at a school. If you want more detailed information, contact staff at one of the Ministry of Education offices listed at the bottom of this page. Staff there will be able to help you.
What rights does my child have regarding enrolment at school?
All children have the right to be enrolled at a State school between their fifth birthday and the first of January following their nineteenth birthday.
Why then do some schools have enrolment schemes?
An enrolment scheme is a means of limiting the roll to prevent overcrowding at the school and enabling local students to enrol. The Ministry of Education is also able to make best use of the current accommodation at schools in the surrounding area.
What does the legislation have to say about enrolment schemes?
- as far as possible exclude no more students than necessary to avoid overcrowding;
- enable the Ministry to make best use of the existing networks of state schools;
- ensure that the selection of applicants for enrolment at the school is carried out in a fair and transparent manner;
- enable students to attend a reasonably convenient school;
- as far as possible not exclude local students.
How does zoning work?
Each enrolment scheme must contain a home zone with clearly defined boundaries. Students who live within the home zone have an absolute right to enrol at the school.
What if I live outside the home zone?
A school with an enrolment scheme may have the capacity to take students from outside their home zone.
In this case the school is required to advertise the availability of places and the application process including dates.
'Out of zone' students may then apply for enrolment. If there are more applicants than places available, a ballot will be held.
The order of priority in which applicants who live outside a school's home zone are to be offered places at the school is now as follows:
(a) first priority must be given to any applicant who is accepted for enrolment in a special programme run by the school:
(b) second priority must be given to any applicant who is the sibling of a current student of the school:
(c) third priority must be given to any student who is the sibling of a former student of the school:
(d) fourth priority must be given to any applicant who is a child of a former student of the school:
(e) fifth priority must be given to any applicant who is either a child of an employee of the board of the school or a child of a member of the board of the school:
(f) sixth priority must be given to all other applicants.
What if I am unsuccessful in the ballot?
Your name will be drawn and you will be placed on a waiting list. The school will advise you of your place on the list.
How do you define living in the "home zone"?
If your usual place of residence is within the home zone, you may apply for enrolment. When you enrol, the school may require proof of residence e.g. tenancy agreement, certificate of title or utility bills, etc. If the school finds that you have given false information, the school may refuse to enrol the student or annul the enrolment.
What can I do if a school tells me that it cannot enrol my child?
First of all, contact the school and ask whether the school has an enrolment scheme. If it does not, the school should not be declining any enrolments. Ask the school to put the refusal in writing stating the relevant details. You can then contact your nearest Ministry of Education office.
If the school does have an enrolment scheme, check to see whether you live in the home zone. You will be able to see a copy of the scheme at the school. If you do not live in the school's home zone, then there will be another school that is reasonably convenient to your home that your child could attend.
If there are exceptional circumstances why your child should be enrolled at a particular school, you may be able to apply to the ministry for a directed enrolment. However, the ministry rarely directs an enrolment.
Are things any different at a state integrated school, a kura kaupapa Maori or a designated character school?
Schools of these types may have authority to operate enrolment schemes if there are likely to be more applicants for enrolment at the school than there are places available. Enrolment schemes at these schools do not have to include a home zone or provide for a ballot.
A state integrated school is a school with a special (religious) character, which has been integrated into the state system. Every integrated school has a maximum roll which it is not allowed to exceed. First of all, an integrated school has to cater for students who meet the school's special character requirements. If there is room left, the school is able to enrol a small number of students who do not meet the special character requirements.
A kura kaupapa Maori is a State school where teaching is in the Maori language and the school's aims, purposes and objectives reflect the Te Aho Matua philosophy. Kura kaupapa Maori are able to restrict enrolments to the children of parents who accept the kura's aims, purposes and objectives.
A designated character School is a state school with a particular character, but different from integrated schools and kura kaupapa Maori. These schools are able to restrict enrolments to the children of parents who accept the school's aims, purposes and objectives.
For further information regarding these schools contact the school directly.
How do I contact the Ministry of Education?
Ministry offices are located at:
Phone 09 436 8900
Phone 09 632 9400
Phone 07 858 7130
Phone 07 349 7399
Phone 06 833 6730
Phone 06 349 6300
Phone 04 463 8699
Phone 03 546 3470
Phone 03 378 7300
Phone 03 471 5200
Phone 03 211 3610
For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Government department responsible for education in New Zealand including Enrolment Scheme Legislation. Information for schools, boards and staff. From legislation and governance requirements to funding and e-admin.
The New Zealand Qualifications Authority is a Crown entity which: Quality assures and, is the main body for, administering national qualifications Registers and monitors providers of education and training, and accredits and approves their courses of instruction.
ERO reviews schools and early childhood education services every three years, and publishes national reports on current education practice.
The Ministry of Education tries to ensure that information on schools and school enrolment zones, including maps, is accurate and current, but school zones and other details are subject to change and you should not rely on information on this website alone. To check current boundaries or other details you should contact the school concerned. The Ministry accepts no responsibility for any action taken on the basis of information provided on this website, or for any errors or omissions.